Many people assume bare means bland when it comes to food, which is why our meals are often topped, drenched, drizzled or dolloped with a wide range of items in an effort to make them more flavorful. But those additions can turn even the healthiest plates into piles of junk fare. Here are the five toppings that are the most likely to undermine your healthy eating efforts.
Pasta Problems: Not-So-Boss Sauce
The nutrition content of pasta varies based on the noodles, sauces and toppings used. A good rule of thumb is if the sauce has “creamy” in its name, you should do some digging before you start piling it on. The thick, rich quality of these pasta sauces can often be attributed to high amounts of butter and heavy cream.
One “creamy” sauce at a popular Italian chain restaurant contains 510 calories, 41 grams of fat, 25 grams of saturated fat and 900 mg of sodium. That’s about as much fat as 18 Oreo cookies. Another cream sauce at the same restaurant has a stunning 2,070 mg of sodium, which is equivalent to 21 pretzel rods. Tomato sauces are usually healthier options than the cream sauces, and making an effort to apply only a moderate amount of sauce instead of drowning your noodles can go a long way.
Sandwich Sinkers: Mayo and Ketchup
A standard staple of sandwiches everywhere, mayonnaise is loaded with fat. In just a spoonful serving of mayonnaise, you’ll find 90 calories—all of them from fat. Flavored mayos, such as chipotle, can be even more fattening. Worse, mayo contains virtually no useful vitamins or protein. There is literally nothing to like about this spread, nutritionally speaking.
Ketchup should also be consumed with caution, since people have a tendency to overuse it. A single tablespoon-sized squirt contains 4 grams of sugar—which is on-par with some ice creams—and 160 mg of sodium.
For a better condiment, opt for plain old mustard. A serving of mustard contains no calories, no fat and low sodium. And if you want a little more flavor, spicy mustard is super low in the same categories.
Salad Spoilers: Dreadful Dressings
If you think ranch dressing goes with everything—and you’re not alone if you do—you’ll find it a drag to learn that its nutrition is dreadful. That magical tangy sauce that makes everything taste good is packed with calories and fat, with one serving containing 145 calories and 15 grams of fat to go along with 328 mg of sodium. When you choose to dump or dip your food with a serving of ranch, you add nearly a powdered donut’s worth of fat to your meal.
Similar creamy dressings such as Italian or bleu cheese should be avoided as well. You don’t have to ditch dressing altogether though. There are lots of flavorful light vinaigrettes and low-fat options, so give something other than ranch a chance.
RELATED: 7 Ways Your Salad Is Making You Fat
Breakfast Breakers: Sugary Spreads
Chocolatey and delicious hazelnut spreads have grown in popularity in recent years, which may be an unfortunate development for the nutritional content of your breakfast. A typical hazelnut spread contains 21 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat per serving, while adding only two grams of protein. Chocolatey spreads and cookie spreads are the same story, super high in sugar with almost no protein. Most of these alternative spreads lack low-fat or low-sugar options, too.
Your best bet for making the most of your morning meal? Peanut butter, which contains similar fat content but much less sugar and much more protein. If you want to switch things up, opt for almond butter, cashew butter or any of the other nut butters.
Check out eight more healthy breakfast ideas.
Restaurant Regrets: “Loaded” Means “Bloated”
A common restaurant term is “loaded,” which essentially means a combination of cheese, bacon, chili and sour cream. Whether it’s on top of fries, nachos or a baked potato, these ingredients can easily double or triple the calories, fat and sodium of your dish. Each of these toppings is a bad nutritional addition individually, but when you combine three or four of them, it can get out of control.
Loaded French fries can have double the fat of normal fries and more than quadruple the amount of sodium as the non-loaded version. Loading up is an especially poor nutritional choice, because it usually skyrockets the nutrition of a simple side dish, which is usually paired with a bigger, potentially even more nutritionally detrimental main dish like a burger or a reuben sandwich.
RELATED: 5 ‘Healthy’ Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries